Authentic French Bread
1 Cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
Shape dough into one 12-inch oblong loaf or 1 large round loaf or two 18-inch thin baguette or 8 French rolls.
Dust the top(s) with a little flour; rub it in. Place loaves on a cookie sheet dusted with cornmeal. With a very sharp knife or razor blade, slash the tops of the rolls of baguettes straight down the center about 1/2 inch deep. On the oblong loaf, make 2 diagonal slashes. On the round loaf, slash an X or # on the top. Cover and let rise on a warm oven for for 30 or 40 minutes until doubled. (Hint: To warm oven slightly, turn oven on warm setting for 2 minutes, then turn it off, and place covered dough in oven to rise. Remove pan from oven to preheat.)
Place pan of hot water on the bottom rack of the oven. (This will create steam, which is necessary to produce an crisp authentic crust.) Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Bake the round or oblong loaves about 20 minutes, the baguettes about 15 minutes, and the rolls 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven; cool on a wire rack. This is best served within hours of baking. To preserve the crisp crust, do not store in plastic bag or wraps.
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